Woe unto you - Matt 23
As we read Matthew 23, we are now in the final period of Jesus’ life. He has dealt with the Jewish leaders now for 3 years. There as been a constant challenge to Him and his teaching. They tested him again and again.
This seems to be his final ‘farewell speech’ to them. He doesn’t go off in a corner to speak, but spoke openly to the crowds (23:1) Again and again he pronounces WOE unto them (13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29). He refers to them as hypocrites, blind guides, blind men, and a brood of vipers. He likens them to whitewashed tombs, clean and bright on the outside and filled with uncleanness on the inside. He says they are ‘children of hell’ and will receive the sentence of hell.
Such was not just true of that generation but had been true of previous generations and had led to the Babylonian destruction of their temple, city, and country.
15 The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; 16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).
Jesus had recently told the parable of the wicked tenants who beat and killed not only the servants of the king but also the son. The application of what would be the end of such wicked tenants: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end” (21:41).
This speech in chapter 23 is followed by Jesus cry of pity for them and the announcement of how their whole city and temple would be utterly destroyed (ch. 24). The danger in such hypocrisy is that it deceives oneself and causes one to be unwilling to change.
You, of course, will notice that this was addressed to religious people! At the core of all right relationships with God is purity of heart and a desire to be right with God no matter the cost. Reading this in the quietness of our homes can create an air of superiority: if we had been there, we would not have been that way. (Of course, you did read that this was exactly what THOSE people said! Vs. 30) We must do better than this. We must examine our hearts and motives. We must desire God with all of our hearts and minds. If you had been there in the time of Jesus?